NO-CAR Grades: Newton shreds Saints
Here are the top takeaways from Sundays New Orleans-Carolina game including the highest-graded players from each team:
New Orleans Saints
— All eyes were on Luke McCown as Drew Brees missed his first start since sitting out a meaningless Week 17 game in 2009. As backups go, you could do far worse than McCown did against the Panthers. Highlights will focus on the fourth quarter interception that all but ended the game, yet McCown was surprisingly effective, especially in the intermediate range, where he completed 8 of 9 for 124 yards. The Saints likely don’t have the roster to win consistently with him under center, but if Brees misses more time they appear to have at least a solid replacement on hand.
— Despite getting a decent chunk of guaranteed money this offseason, Brandon Browner has been a disappointment in the bayou thus far, earning his third straight grade in the red. Though he only conceded four catches, they went for nearly 35 yards per catch, surrendering big ones to both Greg Olsen and Ted Ginn. Adding in an illegal contact penalty, it begs the question of whether it was worth signing the veteran corner. So far, the signing has been abysmal.
— With Jimmy Graham in Seattle, the Saints have become perilously thin at tight end, as the 34 year old Ben Watson was given the lion’s share of snaps in this game. He’s had a solid career, but this was the second week in a row that he struggled in the run game. While he caught all four passes thrown his way, only one of those moved the chains and another resulted in a lost fumble. The Saints lack a real difference maker in the receiving corps, and this issue will continue to test Sean Payton this season.
LT Terron Armstead (+3.8)
DE Cameron Jordan (+3.6)
CB Delvin Breaux (+3.2)
CB Damian Swann (+1.5)
C Max Unger (+1.5)
— A bargain signing last December, Kyle Love has proven to be a more than capable run defender when asked to do so. His +2.6 run defense grade was earned on just 16 snaps as he made Senio Kelemete’s afternoon in the run game miserable. Though Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short are the entrenched starters on the interior, Carolina seems to have found good value on the cheap with Love as a strong rotational player.
— The majority of Cam Newton’s +3.8 grade this week came from his passing rather than his running, as the young signal caller found his matchup against New Orleans’ secondary an ample opportunity to test his arm strength. He went three of six on passes over 20 yards in the air, but the middle of the field is where Newton struck gold. He completed 13 of 15 for 240 yards and two touchdowns.
— He may have given up the lone sack on Sunday, but LG Andrew Norwell has been an excellent addition to a line many thought would struggle in 2015. That sack was his only blemish in pass protection, and the young guard held his own in the running game. With just one negative grade in his last ten games, Norwell is earning his spot as the anchor of the Panthers’ offensive line.
QB Cam Newton (+3.8)
DT Kawaan Short (+2.9)
C Ryan Kalil (+2.9)
DT Kyle Love (+2.9)
LG Andrew Norwell (+2.0)